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Is It Time To Cancel "Cancel Culture?"

BY: ARIANA DUFORD

 
I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!
— Tituba in "The Crucible"  

As we propel further into the era of instant communication, we are simultaneously dragged into the past. Back to the days of pitchfork yielding vigilantes. Back to a society that casts judgment without a sliver of compassion or even regard for the facts.

 Mostly seen on social media, "cancel culture," as it is colloquially called, has transformed timelines and news feeds into a modern-day Salem town square. When social media users decide to "cancel" a person it is usually preceded by the exposure of a misdeed or something downright reprehensible. 

 Canceling involves shunning the wrongdoers from society. All support must end. 

 In August 2019, White pop singer Shawn Mendes responded to being canceled with an apology over Instagram.

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When Mendes was 15, he posted—what we'll call questionable—tweets regarding race, including one calling his non-Black friend the n-word in a familial sense. Those tweets have resurfaced since his rise to fame and Mendes has been forced to answer for them. As expected, some called for his head on a stake.

 Since our footprints on this digital beach can never truly be washed away, we have an unrestricted, front-row view to the skeletons people have shoved in their closets. 

 Your mistakes—your sins— are no longer your own. Like a trial, we demand that people answer for their choices in the presence of the world.  

Along with this, we yield power unheard of before. 

 One person with a few million followers or even a few thousand has a small army at their disposal. With 280 characters, we let out our battle cry and unravel the reputation of anyone who has acted in contrary to society's standards. 

 Consider rapper Lizzo, who publicly accused her Postmates driver of stealing her food. The driver, who Lizzo named and shared a photo of, became Twitter's joke of the night, causing her great distress, she later revealed. It turns out Lizzo, who apologized for her not being responsible with her Twitter account, simply missed her delivery window, according to Rolling Stone. 

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 Beyond the realm of false accusations, cancel culture necessarily maintains that redemption is impossible. 

 In other words, if we choose to embrace cancel culture, then we reject even the slightest possibility of human progress— of change. We dismiss any notion of growth.

 When we cancel someone for a tweet they made as a child, we send the message that only those who have never strayed from the path of purity are deserving of our attention.

 We cast stones when we too have sinned; though we may not be important enough to have a hashtag made about us. 

Too many would rather retroactively punish, than forgive. 

However, there is a line. Perhaps, we're apprehensive about extending forgiveness to those who relish in their immorality. For example, it seems disgraced singer R. Kelly has more accusations of child molestation against him than he has songs. And despite the damning evidence, he maintains he has done nothing wrong. 

Should we show him mercy and stream "Ignition (Remix)" on repeat? 

Probably not. 

Martin Luther King Jr. writes in "A Letter from a Birmingham Jail" that many believe the "strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills." The passage of time itself changes nothing. We should forgive the statesman that wore Blackface 25 years ago, not because of the amount of time that has passed but because of the amount of change in his heart. People should be forgiven insofar as they have corrected their poor behavior. 

 We must ask ourselves, what matters more: what someone did 30 years ago or what they did 30 days ago?

Cancel culture enables us to punish celebrities for the errors in their past, while having our own mistakes shielded by the veil of anonymity. This power that social media wields transforms each of us into judges in the court of public opinion. 

But we have a responsibility to not take advantage of this power. We have a responsibility to extend compassion. And though we should be held responsible for our mistakes, we must never cancel forgiveness.

Let us then live by the words from Arthur Miller's The Crucible: "I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it." - John Proctor


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